Top ten tips for winter photography

Capture Northern Alberta in a breeze

By TERRI WINDOVER, Connect Contributor

 Terri Windover captures a photo of a frosted tree. Check out her ‘Top Ten Tips’ on how to capture great winter photography. Photo by TERRI WINDOVER.

Terri Windover captures a photo of a frosted tree. Check out her ‘Top Ten Tips’ on how to capture great winter photography. Photo by TERRI WINDOVER.

Winter is a gorgeous time of year and there are many opportunities for capturing some amazing images. Whether you have a simple point-and-shoot or an advanced DSLR, there is something for everyone in this top ten list.


1. DRESS APPROPRIATELY. I’m not talking about those times your mom would flip when you wore a skirt that was too short or a shirt with “Eat [poop] and die!” across it. I mean dress to the conditions. I always wear layers in case the weather changes on me. Here are a few tips:

  • Have warm boots. On a recent hiking adventure I had on an old pair of boots that had cracked in the rubber edge. It cut my day short and I almost lost my toes.
  • Don’t over-dress. It may sound stupid, but if you have spent time outdoors you know this to be true. It is better to feel a slight chill while still, than to overheat while walking. Sweat can chill you and lower your body temperature, leading to early-onset hypothermia.
  • Gloves should be taken with you, especially if out for an extended period with no shelter. I wear a thin pair of gloves with rubber gripping on the fingers for use when shooting, and take a pair of mittens along for slipping over the gloves in between.
  • Sunglasses might be a good idea as well… or you know, you can just go snow blind and walk off a cliff.

2. KEEP YOUR BATTERIES WARM. Batteries drain faster in colder temperatures, so it is wise to carry extras and maybe keep them in a pocket or inside your coat, closer to your body heat, until they are needed.

3. KEEP YOUR CAMERA COLD. In the freezer like a bottle of vodka? Not exactly what I mean, but I’m glad you know how to chill good vodka. You know how your glasses fog when coming in from the cold? The same happens to your camera, fogging the mirror, causing condensation inside the lens, and can even short out electronic components (provided you’re part of the 21st century and using a digital camera). Do not place your camera under your coat in hopes of warming it up or keeping your batteries from draining too quickly. The warmth of your body heat can be harmful. Plus, there is nothing worse than whipping out your camera for that once-in-a-lifetime shot only to have it fog up as soon as it’s re-exposed to the cold. Don’t do it!

4. KEEP YOUR GEAR ACCESSIBLE. Nobody wants to be fumbling around in a bag or dropping stuff in the snow. You also don’t want to be setting your bag down in the snow and risking any kind of water saturation. So, whether you’re using pockets (Zip them up!), a backpack, or an actual camera bag, make sure you can reach your gear with minimal effort.


5. SHOOT IN RAW. If possible, capture your images in RAW format. This allows you to fix problems that can be very hard to correct shooting in JPEG. If you’re scared by the larger file size, be sure to (apart from growing a pair) bring along extra memory cards to accommodate the bigger size. I mean really, you wouldn’t leave the house with your baby with just the one diaper would you?

6. DON’T DELETE! It can be tempting to delete an image, after taking a peak at the LCD or if nervous of running out of room on your camera card. But never delete an image, until you have had a chance to view it on a bigger screen. There have been many times when an image that looked like crap outside turned out to be a stunning image once I had a chance to edit it. This is especially true if you have imbibed a few beers on the hike. (I may have erased my entire card, while in the Yukon one time.)

7. WATCH WHERE YOU WALK. Unless footprints are the intended purpose of the shot watch that you don’t leave an unsightly trail in a beautiful spot. Take your time to view new areas before walking through them.

8. USE MANUAL MODE. Snow is bright and can be overpowering for your camera’s internal light meter. Using your camera in AUTO will undoubtedly result in dark images since the camera is reading all of the bright light reflected from the snow and compensating accordingly.


9. WARM UP SLOWLY. This goes back to the whole thing condensation thing. The best way to prevent this is to place your gear back into your bag and close it up before bringing it inside, then allow it to sit for a while before opening it back up again. This allows your camera to warm up to room temperature slowly along with the lenses and such. If you need to get your memory card out of the camera, be sure to do so before going inside. That way you won’t expose your camera to the warm air too soon. And for the love of the perfect shot don’t crank the heat in your vehicle, until it rivals the Sahara Desert for heat. You’ll survive a bit longer, I promise.

10. BRING YOUR PHOTOS TO LIFE. Granted they won’t actually come alive like Frankenstein’s monster, but take some steps, to breathe some life into your images while editing. The intense white from the snow, plus the overcast skies can mean a lack of color depth and a general haziness in the photo. A simple fix for this, at least in Lightroom is to increase the black intensity during editing. This will bring out some of the detail that may have been lost by increasing the saturation.

I hope this helps you take some amazing shots this winter. To view some of my photos, visit me on Facebook: Terri Windover.



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